The number of households having their power cut off has risen dramatically across Newcastle and the Lower Hunter in recent years.
Data provided to the Newcastle Herald by St Vincent de Paul Society show the proportion of households in the 2300 postcode, covering Newcastle, Cooks Hill, Bar Beach, The Hill and Newcastle East, to have their power disconnected doubled from 3.93 per cent in 2015-16 to 8.8 per cent in 2017-18.
The 2300 postcode has now eclipsed Windale (8.62 per cent) as the region's most disconnected postcode.
It was a similar story in other areas, including northern Lake Macquarie's 2284 postcode, where the ratio of disconnections to dwellings jumped from 1.89 per cent to 4.64 per cent in two years.
The figures provide more evidence that cost-of-living pressures and low wage growth are affecting households, especially in low-income areas.
Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon told Parliament on Tuesday evening that the number of disconnections in the 2300 postcode was "shocking".
"Far from being an anomaly, disconnections are becoming commonplace," she said during a speech on legislation which would give the government the power to intervene in the energy market and break up big electricity companies.
The bill passed through the lower house on Wednesday morning.
The Hunter disconnection figures come from a survey by Melbourne firm Alviss Consulting, which produced a report, Households in the Dark, for Vinnies this month.
Other areas to see a rise in disconnections include Mayfield (3.21 to 4.82 per cent), Jesmond and Lambton (2.82 to 5.64 per cent), Waratah and Georgetown (2.72 to 4.94 per cent) and Belmont (1.52 to 2.63 per cent).
Households in the Dark details disconnections in NSW, Victoria, south-east Queensland and South Australia between July 2015 and June 2018.
It revealed the number of disconnections in NSW grew slightly after prices jumped 8 per cent in July 2016 and 15 to 20 per cent in July 2017 and decreased slightly after prices dropped by 9 to 13 per cent in July 2015.
Proportion of completed disconnections per occupied private dwellings
- Postcode 2300: 2015-16 3.93%, 2017-18 8.88%
- Postcode 2284: 2015-16 1.89%, 2017-18 4.64%
- Postcode 2306: 2015-16 7.78%, 2017-18 8.62%
- Postcode 2304: 2015-16 3.21%, 2017-18 4.82%
- Postcode 2299: 2015-16 2.82%, 2017-18 5.64%
- Postcode 2298: 2015-16 2.72%, 2017-18 4.94%
- Postcode 2280: 2015-16 1.52%, 2017-18 2.63%
An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry last year found a 56 per cent rise in power prices in real terms from 2007-08 to 2017-18. But the Vinnies report did not find a correlation between price rises and disconnections.
"Whilst one of our initial assumptions was that there would be a link between higher numbers of disconnections for non-payment and price increases, in reality, the link is not evident," it said.
Remote areas of NSW had the worst disconnection rates, between 10 and 20 per cent of households, while much of the the south coast had rates below 1 per cent.
The proportion of households to lose their power was higher across Sydney than in Newcastle.
Ms Claydon laid the blame for disconnections at the door of the government, urging it to deliver an energy policy that would "drive investment, create jobs, bring down carbon emissions and cut electricity prices".
"Wholesale power prices have climbed 158 per cent since 2015. Business is hurting and household budgets are getting smashed," she said.
The Vinnes report said disconnection was the "ultimate manifestation of a household's inability to afford electricity supply".
It said income levels, high and inefficient consumption, the cost of power and the inadequacy of price concessions all contributed to disconnections.
"Furthermore, households without a financial safety net may quite easily find themselves in a situation where the electricity bill cannot be paid due to small, unforeseen events," it said.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here.
IN THE NEWS
- One in 11 Newcastle inner-city households have had their power disconnected
- Government long service leave agency grilled at Senate estimates over treatment of 'casual' mineworkers
- North Stockton, Fern Bay strategy shows vision for new town centre
- Cocaine catamaran case: Craig Lembke found guilty of importing 700 kilograms of cocaine
- UK cops find 39 bodies in truck container
- Plastic waste sector needs a lot more public attention in the Hunter and worldwide